The antioxidants in foods are not constant. Though the ORAC scores and other scientific analyses set a benchmark, the real levels of antioxidants in any given food will vary depending on a few key factors.
It’s not enough just to look at a foods “ranking” when it comes to antioxidants. It helps to consider a few important variables that make some foods more healthful than others:
- Freshness: What do you think is better? A berry freshly picked in your backyard versus a berry picked unripe and flown in from Mexico to your grocery shelf?
- Is it live? A sprout, or something that is still growing (for instance celery with the root) is considered live. This kind of food has a gazillion more active vitamins than most store-bought produce, which sometimes is picked days before and is exposed to oxidation.
Cooking methods such as boiling, stewing, frying or baking can destroy as much as 80% of the antioxidants. Your best option is to eat the food raw or lightly steamed. Another tip is to soak foods like seeds, nuts, and beans in water, which germinates them and makes them “come alive”.
- Organic or natural: Organic food is widely available in supermarkets now, but also can be a complex matter (ie: how organic is it really? what is considered USDA certified? what’s “natural”, etc?). Bottome Line: To know your own food, you must grow your own food. It’s not always possible (but easier than you might think!)
- Is it a Super food? Super foods are known to have high amounts of antioxidants and other important elements. The lush and bio-diverse rainforest sure seems like the ideal spot for super foods, but in reality we don’t have to look that far. Different super foods come from different parts of the world. For example, maca root grows in the arid Andes mountains, mulberries grow as far north as the Tundra, olives from the Mediterranean, and goji berries can grow in just about anyone’s backyard.
- Is it from the Sea? Sea weed and sea vegetables might not be well known for their antioxidant content, but are extremely rich in vital nutrients that we can’t get from most “dry land” foods.
Apart from iron and iodine, sea plants contain trace minerals tin, zinc, boron, selenium, chromium, antimony and bismuth. They are densely packed with full spectrum vitamins, including A, C, E and the under-consumed B12.
Learn more about Antioxidants in Foods here.